Sal's Nanny 215
By the time he got up the area-steps, three or four women who had seen him go down were standing together at the top waiting for him. They wanted his clothes for their children; but they did not follow him down lest Sal should find them then*. The moment he appeared, they laid their hands on him, and all began talking at once, for each wanted to get some advantage over her neighbours. He told them quite quietly, for he was not frightened, that he had come to see what was the matter with Nanny.
"What do you know about Nanny?" said one of them fiercely. "Wait till old Sal comes home, and you'll catch it, for going prying into her house when she's out. If you don't give me your jacket directly, I'll go and fetch her."
" I can't give you my jacket," said Diamond. " It belongs to my father and mother, you know. It's not mine to give. Is it now? You would not think it right to give away what wasn't yours — would you now?"
"Give it away! No, that I wouldn't; I'd keep it," she said, with a rough laugh. " But if the jacket ain't yours, what right have you to keep it? Here, Cherry, make haste. It'll be one go apiece."
They all began to tug at the jacket, while Diamond stooped and kept his arms bent to resist them. Before they had done him or the jacket any harm, however, suddenly they all scampered away; and Diamond, looking in the opposite direction, saw the tall policeman coming towards him.
"You had better have let me come with you, little